Google Accessible Search rewards accessibility
Google Accessible Search is a new Google product that is under development. It is designed to prioritise search results that are more usable to blind and visually impaired people.
It works by examining the HTML markup and favouring pages that degrade gracefully, which according to Google means
pages with few visual distractions and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off. Google Accessible Search also takes into account
whether or not [a given page's] primary purpose is immediately viable with keyboard navigation.
Imagine the boost web accessibility would get if Google would replace the normal search with this. It would immediately become even more obvious to businesses that there are customers to be found and money to be made by making sure that as many people as possible can use your website.
All is not good though. I am disappointed, but not really surprised, that Google Accessible Search itself doesn't exactly provide a shining example of accessible or standards based web design. How about paying someone for a few hours of HTML + CSS coding to fix that, Google? The cost will be unnoticeable to you and you will set a good example.
A sidenote: anybody who thinks Google is not at all interested in web standards, think again. Joe D'Andrea has been working on some neat stuff for Google which you can read more about in Google Goes To Web Standardsville, Part One.
I'd also love to see other factors being taken into account, like proper use of headings and other semantic markup, and I would like to move emphasis from vision impairment to accessibility for all. Web accessibility being just about blind people is the biggest myth of them all, and many people have worked hard to bust that myth.
Most of all though, it would be incredible if bad, outdated, and inaccessible web development practices were heavily penalised by Google. Oh, how I would love that.
Minor criticisms aside, the fact that Google Accessible Search even exists is a great thing. Implement my suggestions and it would become a fantastic boost to best practices on the web.
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